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J Biol Chem. 2012 Nov 30;287(49):40867-74. doi: 10.1074/jbc.R112.399444. Epub 2012 Oct 5.

The choreography of HIV-1 proteolytic processing and virion assembly.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.


HIV-1 has been the target of intensive research at the molecular and biochemical levels for >25 years. Collectively, this work has led to a detailed understanding of viral replication and the development of 24 approved drugs that have five different targets on various viral proteins and one cellular target (CCR5). Although most drugs target viral enzymatic activities, our detailed knowledge of so much of the viral life cycle is leading us into other types of inhibitors that can block or disrupt protein-protein interactions. Viruses have compact genomes and employ a strategy of using a small number of proteins that can form repeating structures to enclose space (i.e. condensing the viral genome inside of a protein shell), thus minimizing the need for a large protein coding capacity. This creates a relatively small number of critical protein-protein interactions that are essential for viral replication. For HIV-1, the Gag protein has the role of a polyprotein precursor that contains all of the structural proteins of the virion: matrix, capsid, spacer peptide 1, nucleocapsid, spacer peptide 2, and p6 (which contains protein-binding domains that interact with host proteins during budding). Similarly, the Gag-Pro-Pol precursor encodes most of the Gag protein but now includes the viral enzymes: protease, reverse transcriptase (with its associated RNase H activity), and integrase. Gag and Gag-Pro-Pol are the substrates of the viral protease, which is responsible for cleaving these precursors into their mature and fully active forms (see Fig. 1A).

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